A woman performs in the Vagina Monologues at the UGA North Chapel on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. The play will run through Saturday, Feb. 16, and the proceeds benefit Project Safe, a nonprofit organization based in Athens that works to end domestic violence. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

On the evening of Valentine’s Day, women and men gathered at the University of Georgia Chapel to hear a different v-word echo from the well-lit stage in the otherwise dark room.

Project Safe held the first show of its three-night run of Eve Ensler’s acclaimed play “The Vagina Monologues” at the UGA Chapel on Feb. 14 at 8 p.m., this year spotlighting women in prisons and jails, detention centers and formerly incarcerated women.

Monologuing heartbreak and humor

Written in 1994, the play features a series of monologues ranging from hilarious — like a 6-year-old girl responding to the question of what her vagina would wear if it got dressed — to heartbreaking discussions of sexual assault and violence against the transgender community.

Project Safe also incorporated works outside of Ensler’s play with the event’s spotlight on women in prisons and jails, detention centers, and formerly incarcerated women by featuring an original monologue written and performed by Page Dukes, an Atlanta-based writer and Georgia State University student who spent most of her 20s in prison.

Her monologue entitled “Illicit” depicted the disturbing realities incarcerated women face — such as invasive strip searches and violation by guards — and concluded with the entire cast holding hands, calling for solidarity between all women and those who are incarcerated or have been in the past.

All in all, the play portrayed a variety of female experiences. The cast reflected this diversity, with performers of “all different ages, shapes, sizes, cultures and backgrounds,” said the show's director Kat Farlowe. Everyone who auditioned was welcomed to the performance; the only requirement is they identify as a woman.

The show tackled its messages directly with no hesitation. Lottie Loo, a senior health promotion major from Athens, appreciated the show’s boldness.

“I really like the forwardness in talking about women’s health and vaginas,” Loo said. “It’s nice to be forward about things we don’t often talk about.”

Farlowe, who began as a performer in 2016 and has directed the show for the past three years, hopes the audience enjoyed “The Vagina Monologues,” but truly desires for them to walk away having learned something.

“I just want people to experience the play,” Farlowe said. “And hopefully [they’ll] start thinking about a woman’s role. We’re empowered now.”

Continuing the theme

The performances of “The Vagina Monologues” are a fundraiser for Project Safe.

Project Safe is a local nonprofit that fights to end domestic violence through prevention and educational programs, crisis intervention, support services for survivors and community lobbying for change. Kendall Worman, the community involvement and volunteer coordinator for Project Safe, saw an alignment between this mission and “The Vagina Monologues.”

“‘The Vagina Monologues,’ more than anything, is a performance that represents the prevalence of gender-based violence which is something we work every day to raise awareness about and one day hopefully end,” Worman said.

According to Worman, the play is funny, sad, devastating and empowering, which ties in and “compliments the culture of Project Safe.”

In its 21st year, Project Safe’s rendition of “The Vagina Monologues” has become an integral part of the organization. It’s something they “couldn’t imagine not doing,” Worman said.

Project Safe’s shows are a part of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against all women. Many other places and groups participate in the movement and have their own performances of “The Vagina Monologues” near Valentine’s Day.

In fact, Katie Reinberger, a first-year anthropology graduate student from Athens, attended this event “to bring back the tradition” of when she used to see the show as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

To continue with the this year’s theme, Project Safe is also collecting paperback books for the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement’s Books and Bailout initiative which supplies books to local jails and juvenile detention centers.

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